“Getting stuck in the sand-dunes, working as a team with more experienced drivers and marshals to dig ourselves out of the sand, celebrating our safe arrival at the camp all gave us a sense of purpose and achievement. End of the day we would all feel proud of our achievements,” said Indian expat TK Raman about the annual Gulf News Fun Drive.
The Gulf News Fun Drive is the most awaited off-roading event held every year. This year - the 38th edition - will kick off on January 11 (Friday) at 9 am. The Fun Drive begins from Al Fathiya on Hameem Road all the way up to the foot of the Moreeb Dune in the Liwa region. Like every year, the Fun Drive will be a fun-filled adventure ride for families.
“I started taking part in the Fun Drive in 1989. We were a bunch of adrenaline junkies who would sign up every year for the event. I would take my two boys along as they loved the bumpy rides,” said Raman who has done 15 Fun Drives so far.
“I took part in the Fun Drive on one non-negotiable condition - I had to be the driver! The sheer pleasure of negotiating high dunes and steep falls on the other side were far too precious to share with other drivers,” said Raman.
“We always participated in the fun drive with family and friends, but on one non-negotiable condition- I was always the driver. The sheer pleasure and adrenaline rush of negotiating high dunes and steep falls on the other side were far too precious to share with other drivers. Besides you get to see an amazing landscape along the way, the amazing desert with its beautiful colour filled sand-dunes, the habitat and the environment,” he said.
Raman said another exciting thing about the Fun Drive was “quality bonding time” with family and friends.
He admits his first drive was a complete disaster. Without any prior off-road experience, he struggled to say the least on the drive. “Just imagine I did not even know how to deflate tires. I was stuck in the sand 10 times in just the first two hours of starting my drive.”
He recalled a marshal who was on the drive was very patient with him and shared a number of useful tips for him to maneuver the dunes. There were many dos and don’ts he said thanks to those tips, Raman fared much better in the second part of the day. “I did miss a few check points, but managed to reach the camp safely.”
Raman’s wife Uma also recalled an experience that shook the family up quite a bit as they raced up a sand-dune so fast that when they landed on the other side of the dune, they hit a massive rock. “It was a very steep mount on the sand-dune. Quite a few people had already churned the sand, but it was still soft. So we went full throttle only to hit a rock lying hidden underneath a bush below the dune. Our vehicle tilted as a result of the blow. And for a moment our car was standing vertical! My husband who was driving, was in utter shock to say the least. The rest of us passengers were saying prayers. There was absolute silence when the car came to a halt.”
She said there were two three people nearby who came to their rescue.
“These boys were watching the whole episode with us and immediately rushed to our vehicle to help us out. That is the kind of camaraderie you see when you are on the Drive. People you don’t know come to your rescue and you end up being friends afterwards.”
For a good 15 minutes Raman said he did not touch his vehicle after the incident. But he gathered courage and decided to continue the ride.
Recalling other memories, Raman said during the first few drives, the focus was always about reaching the camp as quickly as possible. “When we started enjoying the drives, we learnt the tricks of the trade and started enjoying the surrounding landscapes.”
“The boys loved to roll down the dunes whenever we stopped, sand board near the overnight campsite and enjoyed the magic show and the sumptuous breakfast the morning after. We usually had a group of eight to nine friends from Abu Dhabi taking part on the drive and we always moved as a convoy as much as possible as back then we did not have mobile phones. Of course when the era of mobiles started, it was much easier to communicate with each other.”
His wife Uma said as a family we love off-roading and adventure. My older son has had a fascination for cars all his life. When he was as young as two, he would love riding in four-wheelers. Because of him we invested in a four-wheeler and started taking part in the Fun Drive. My boys simply loved it.